Free at Last: Julian Assange Leaves Prison, Ending 1,901-day Incarceration After Plea Deal

June 25, 2024
Free at Last: Julian Assange Leaves Prison, Ending 1901-Day Incarceration After Plea Deal

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, walked free from Belmarsh maximum security prison on Monday, concluding his 1,901-day incarceration.

His release, granted by the High Court in London, followed a plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department in which he agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information.

In a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter), WikiLeaks confirmed that Assange had boarded a plane and left the United Kingdom on Monday. They expressed gratitude for those who supported Assange’s fight for freedom and reiterated the organization’s mission to hold the powerful accountable.

“WikiLeaks published groundbreaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions. As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know,” the statement read.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, expressed his gratitude for the widespread support that contributed to Assange’s release, saying, “I can say in earnest that without your support this would have never materialised, this important day of joy, the day of Julian’s freedom. Thank you so much.”

The Justice Department’s 2019 indictment against Assange accused him of encouraging and aiding U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published in 2010. Prosecutors alleged that Assange’s actions damaged national security by harming the U.S. and its allies and aiding adversaries.

After enduring over five years in a cramped cell, isolated for 23 hours a day, Assange’s release was a cause for celebration for his wife, Stella, and their children, who had only ever known their father behind bars.

Stella Assange emphasized the global movement that had rallied behind her husband during his long ordeal, highlighting the widespread support for his unwavering commitment to transparency, stating, “Throughout the years of Julian’s imprisonment and persecution, an incredible movement has been formed. People from all walks of life from around the world who support not just Julian … but what Julian stands for: truth and justice.”

Assange’s newfound freedom came after he agreed to the plea deal, resolving a legal saga that had spanned continents and sparked intense debates about the balance between press freedom and government secrecy. The deal stipulated that he would appear later in the week at a U.S. federal court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific, to formally plead guilty.

The choice of Saipan as the location for the hearing was attributed to its proximity to Australia and its ability to handle high-profile cases remotely, offering the necessary security and infrastructure while minimizing media and public disruption. The court was expected to sentence Assange to time served, paving the way for his swift return to Australia.

The resolution of Assange’s case marked a significant turning point in a legal battle that had captivated global attention. It underscored the ongoing tension between government efforts to protect classified information and the public’s right to know, as well as the complex role of whistleblowers and investigative journalists in holding power to account.

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